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The new bridge by Calatrava in Venice October 1, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, travel.
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Two weeks ago, after several years of straggling with respect to the original due date, the “Constitution Bridge” designed by Santiago Calatrava, and built on the Grand Canal between Piazzale Roma and the train Station, was finally opened to the public. The construction was ridden by many problems, and the initial cost almost increased by a factor of four, to a respectable 16 million euros. However, I have to say it is a really, really beautiful bridge! Below, some pictures I stole from an italian newspaper.

The tormented story is not over, apparently. First of all, the project includes a means of transportation for the walking-impaired, which has not been installed yet. This caused a protest which prevented the inauguration ceremony from taking place as planned upon opening the bridge to the public: Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano had originally been invited, but the ceremony was waived after being threatened by a demonstrative action by a group supporting the rights of people with disabilities. So the bridge was opened without any ceremony, an oddity which is after all not so bad news: Napolitano deserves everybody’s respect, and his presence had a symbolic meaning (he has always been and still is a strong defender of the italian Constitution, which is more and more threatened by the present government); but the usual depressing show of politicians cutting ribbons and smiling on TV, and then proceeding with praising themselves, has for once been avoided.

Second, the bridge appears unsecure. Many citizens have reported missing a step and falling, in the places where the pace of the steps halves (a few points along the arch): they expected a step, found none, and fell down. The direction of construction work has assured they will quickly solve the problem, although from what I understand this will mean that some of the very nice glass steps will be replaced by ones made of stone.

Third, blind men might risk running into the large blocks of marble set at the feet of the stairs, on each side. These have a protruding, sharp edge (it is the only part of the bridge I do not like, indeed). Again, this will be solved soon, by applying some suitable floor markings around the obstacles.

Despite all these troubles, I must say that the area has been greatly improved both in functionality and in the aesthetics. First of all, the bridge allows for a quick commute from the train station to the buses: what was once a 12′ detour takes now less than five minutes. This also eases the congestion of boats carrying people across the grand canal. The bridge provides also a revitalization to an area next to the train station which had been left in disuse -rumors have it that a big building just across the bridge, next to the train station, will become a large mall. Finally, the bridge itself becomes a meeting point. The very architecture of the construction, with a center wider than the entrances, creates room for people who desire to linger around or have a look from a vantage point at the most beautiful town in the world.



1. Anisotropie - October 1, 2008

I agree. I like Calatrava’s bridge too.
And above all, I agree with “the most beautiful town in the world”! 🙂

2. Thomas Larsson - October 1, 2008

Venice was the first stop on our honeymoon, back in 1987. Nice city, although coffee at the Marcus square was ridiculously expensive already at that time.

3. dorigo - October 1, 2008

Hi Thomas,

tsk tsk – you should have known better. Those are little short of thieves. Caffe’ Florian, Caffe’ Quadri, and the other bars with tables on the S.Marco square are to be avoided at all costs. However, I understand how for a tourist it is frankly hard to avoid all the traps. It is hard for us living in there too!


4. Kea - October 1, 2008

Nice bridge – but most beautiful town in the world? Hmm. I detect some bias here. Venice is a beautiful town (I was there briefly in the ’80s) but so are many others.

5. Louise - October 2, 2008

If you are ever in Las Vegas, the Venetian Resort has an indoor (and spotlessly clean) Grand Canal and St. Mark’s Square. They recently opened a Palazzo section with indoor waterfall. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

6. dorigo - October 2, 2008

Hi Kea,

my comment on the “most beautiful” was of course tongue-in-cheek…
I do love Venice, but I’d not mind living elsewhere.

Hi Louise,

yes, I know there’s a mock-up in Vegas. I assure you there are no indoor waterfalls anywhere in Venetian palaces though 😉


7. Gabibbo - October 2, 2008

“I assure you there are no indoor waterfalls anywhere in Venetian palaces though”

Two words: acqua alta.

And of course Venice *is* the most beautiful town in the world! What other place can compare? The only bad thing about Venice is its hideous hinterland; you have to travel hundreds of km to find a nice countryside.

8. dorigo - October 2, 2008

I never saw acqua alta creating a waterfall. Also, you do not seem to know the countryside around Venice. There are wonderful places already just 10 km away. The same lagoon is a unique natural environment. While, if you want to travel 80 km, you get to nice mountains.

The only thing that sucks is the quality of the water of the lido di Venezia and surrounding beaches, which is not good.


9. Anisotropie - October 2, 2008

The water of Lido di Venezia is not worse than the rest of adriatic coast; indeed, following ARPAV’s analysis, is one the healthiest in Italy.

It is not easy to live in Venice, and one can live elsewhere, but aesthetically speaking, Venice is the best 😉

10. Markk - October 3, 2008

Speaking as a Calatrava fan (Our Art Museum in Milwaukee is great) he loves that glass white sail like structure. I believe it is based on forms of sails but the curves on his designs always seem like splines or something – pure but when you look, not really parabolas or ellipses – something slightly off. Or maybe that is just my eye. You can definitely see his style.

There is even a Calatrava inspired (I think he helped slightly with advice) bridge right next to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. I always thought that was cute. As I rode by on my bicycle… Oh yeah, generally his projects shake themselves out over a year or two but them are pretty functional.

11. chimpanzee - October 4, 2008

I was at the Venetian in Las Vegas in 2005, & I thought it was pretty interesting too.


The gondola ride looked pretty nice!

VR Tour of Venetian
Venetian Tour

Venetian is right across the street from Treasure Island, which has a fantastic nightly show. Pirates battling it out with fireworks & special effects. TI has my favorite Las Vegas buffet (high-end, $16).

A Las Vegas historian (my HS classmate btw, Dept Head UNLV History Dept) said:

“Las Vegas can give you a xxx, without being the real thing”

It’s a form of virtual reality, kinda like what a Scientific Theory is..just a virtual model of reality.

12. Ross - October 4, 2008

I like the design of the bridge but the colour is all wrong. It should be some kind of ancient terra cotta or mouldy old green, like the rest of Venice. The actual colour looks like a protest, as if the bridge is a juvenile’s t-shirt saying “U_ yours!”.

13. Ross - October 4, 2008

I just noticed that the underside of the bridge is OK for colour, and so is the whole bridge at night. It’s the bright white and translucent blue hues during the day that cause the problem.

14. Fred - October 4, 2008

Hola Tommaso de Venecia,

Your post conjures images of Ayn Rand’s book “The Fountainhead” and her unyielding devotees. The works of the notable architectural firms headed by Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry reveal a distinct flaw in the human psyche: we cannot consume enough from those that seek to dominate us through art, politics, religion and industry. We can intellectualize our evolving needs by relative thought and action but inevitably we return to the nest and yearn for predestiny like little baby birds with mouths wide open. Who can deny the elemental beauty of glass, concrete and meta coming from those talented in the world of technology? I personally would have liked to have seen this particular bridge designed and built by an independent team that carried the heart and soul of Venice on its sleeve. The contracted public works of large consortiums are usually impressive but lack the spirit, functionality and intimacy of personal freedom. The paradox here is twofold: 1. The philosophical direction of individuality that Rand promoted is an elitist agenda disguised as a strike for humanity. 2. The initial discrete and distinct qualities of Calatrava and Gehry eventually succumb to the lure and power of the throne. Regardless, the citizens of Venice should be able to bend this eye-appealing structure to their will.

Buenos dias

15. Ross - October 5, 2008

Mi scusi ma non capisco.

16. Guess Who - October 5, 2008

Fred, to paraphrase Freud, sometimes a bridge is just a bridge…

17. dorigo - October 6, 2008

Well Fred, I am unable to match your rethoric style, so I’ll stay down to earth – the facts are: the bridge’s blueprint was donated by Santiago Calatrava to the city of Venice. There did not seem to be another option… Or so I think I had the story.

Ross, what is that you do not understand ? As for the bridge’s color, I think I like glass in the bridge, so I disagree… Besides, please remember that Venice is not a natural place: it is all built, invented by man. I see no problem in integrating new technology and materials in the city’s architectures…


18. Fred - October 7, 2008

GW & T,

I stand corrected in my over-the-top assessment of the bridge itself. My thoughts towards the architects were a reaction to several Venetian newspaper accounts with comments from the readers. For instance: ‘La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre’ published this article:


Even though my understanding of the Italian language is very limited now, I had the impression that a number the readers were questioning the functionality of the bridge. Over the past 30 years in Santa Monica, we have had a number urban renewal projects constructed under the guise of benefitting the community. We have only just started to adequately question our local leaders and planners with more scrutiny directed at the cost and overall future impact of these commissions. I suppose I am a bit hypersensitive from being steamrolled by prominent developers in our small but thriving city.

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